I arrived at the club to find pleasant conditions and a moderate breeze so I set about rigging my Minisail – forerunner to the Topper – with the big Minisail sail. I set sail in a wind strong enough to achieve satisfying speeds without being extreme. I was halfway across the reservoir then everything suddenly stopped. As the boom clattered noisily onto the hull I noticed the Minisail’s sail loosely flapping around the front of the boat (bow). It didn’t take me long to realise that I’d ripped another clew out of another sail….. [pause for ‘jokes’: haven’t got a clew; clewless etc etc.].
Grabbing the end of the sail (we’ve been here before) I was able to navigate my way onto the dam wall where I tied the boat to a rock, de-rigged it and walked back to the club house. Kindly saving me the job Gwyn took to the kayak and rescued the Minisail – forerunner to the Topper. By the time he’d got it back to the jetty I’d got changed and decided to call it a day. I dragged the boat up to the mooring (is that the right word?) and was about to leave when Andrew suggested that I should borrow Philip’s (or Richard’s?) Laser. Hmm, this might just save the day. I began to perk up again.
Meanwhile back at the ranch….
Next season's fashion?
…Gwyn’s quest for the ultimate cold water winter sailing foot furniture has led him to acquire the above! Who else but Gwyn could find such an appropriately eccentric loafer in the Cuckoos Nest? Note also the rubber over sock worn under the shoe, essential to the mechanics of the whole system (I’m pretty sure gaffa tape was involved somewhere too). Whatever, he was keen to test them out and was soon zipping across the reservoir on Captain Chaos.
Back to the plot
Me and Philip (mostly Philip… a lot mostly Philip) got the Laser rigged and onto the water. It wasn’t the size of the boat or its reputed speed that made me nervous. It wasn’t even because the sail was big enough to have it’s own gravitational field. It had a centre main – the Laser’s mainsheet operates from the centre of the boat, not the transom where I’m used to. I don’t understand the mechanics of this system and the last time I tried was on Charles’s Topper at Rhoscolyn… just before capsizing.
Andrew found a stick (tiller) and a piece of rope (main sheet) and demonstrated the procedure. I practised Tai Chi like on dry land hoping to embed it firmly into muscle memory before getting into the boat. After a while I felt I’d got it. It felt right. I was confident(ish).
I got in the boat and set off for the first race. I managed to get a couple of practice turns in at the start line, it somehow felt different from the Tai Chi on dry land. The starting hooter wailed and we were off. I decided to hang back, take it easy and get used to the boat and the centre main procedure. The boat had another plan all together and it wasted no time in letting me know. My first turn was rather a panicked affair but it kind of worked. It was so inefficient that it put some distance between me and the other boats. This was good. For everyone. After a few more turns I realised that the technique I had committed to muscle memory only worked when using the tiller extension. I wasn’t using the tiller extension.
I stayed out after the race to practice and got a bit more comfortable using the tiller extension. Changing to centre main was a bit like driving a left hand drive car – it feels a bit weird at first but after a while it feels probably more natural. I think I came 2nd or 3rd in the next race and began to get a feel for the Laser which, after sailing the Minisail – forerunner to the Topper – felt manageable and stable.
Race 3 and I got a really good start. I somehow managed to catch Pat up rather a lot faster than I had the ability to deal with and just about managed to avoid crashing into the back of her. Seconds after this incident Pat capsized. I felt responsible and hung around to make sure she was OK and shouted my apologies. An excellent and experienced sailor Pat was soon out of the water, back into her boat and sailing again.
I don’t remember much more of the race except that I found myself in the lead and being chased down by the two Enterprises: Noddy in his and Philip in Gwyn’s. The Laser seemed to be able to sail really close to the wind and I’d noticed that Philip had had to put in an extra tack but Noddy hadn’t and I could tell by the sound of his boat that he must be catching me up. I just managed to get over the finish line in front of him to finish the race first – probably not a win after handicapping but a most enjoyable sail.
race route - wind direction: south west(ish)